No Criminal Charges in Fatal Back Bay Fire

March 2014 blaze claimed the lives of Boston Fire Lt. Ed Walsh and Firefighter Michael Kennedy

The investigation into the March 2014 fatal Back Bay fire that claimed the lives of two firefighters has concluded -- and criminal charges will not be sought.

District Attorney Daniel Conley says the employees and owner of a Malden, Massachusetts, metalworking company acted carelessly, but not recklessly, when they unwittingly started a blaze that went on to claim the lives of Boston Fire Lt. Edward Walsh, Jr. and Firefighter Michael R. Kennedy.

The decision follows a year-long factual investigation into the fire at 298 Beacon St.

"Edward Walsh and Michael Kennedy made the ultimate sacrifice while saving lives and property from a fire that engulfed an entire building in the middle of a residential neighborhood," Conley says. "This decision in no way detracts from the bravery of their actions or the tragedy of their loss. The standard for criminal prosecution in a case like this is recognizing a grave risk and choosing to run that risk. The investigation revealed actions that were irresponsible and even careless, but not willful, wanton, and reckless as our courts have defined those terms. As a result, the facts, the evidence, and the current state of Massachusetts law do not support criminal charges."

Walsh and Kennedy both died from smoke inhalation and burn injuries sustained when they were trapped in the building's basement.

Investigators determined that the wind-whipped fire was started by welding sparks from work being done without a permit at the building next door.

Conley and his senior staff met with both families and Boston Fire Department leaders last week to inform them of his decision.

Kennedy was a former Marine and volunteer for burn victims and for Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. Walsh was married with three children.

"This city will never forget the gallantry of Edward Walsh and Michael Kennedy, who entered a burning building fully aware of the danger that waited inside," Conley says. "It's been said that there is no greater love than to lay down one's life for a friend. But Edward Walsh and Michael Kennedy did even more than that - as Boston firefighters, they laid down their lives for strangers."

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